The Bonesetter's Daughter (opera)
The Bonesetter's Daughter is an opera in a prologue and two acts by Stewart Wallace to a libretto by Amy Tan based on her novel of the same name. It premiered on 13 September 2008 at the War Memorial Opera House of San Francisco Opera, which commissioned the work.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere cast, 13 September 2008
Conductor: Steven Sloane
|Ruth Young Kamen
LuLing as a young woman
|LuLing Liu Young||mezzo-soprano||Ning Liang|
|Precious Auntie||Kunju mezzo||Qian Yi|
|Chang the Coffin Maker||bass||Hao Jiang Tian|
|Chinese folk/pop tenor||Wu Tong|
|Art Kamen||baritone||James Maddalena|
|Arlene Kamen||mezzo-soprano||Catherine Cook|
|Marty Kamen||bass-baritone||Valery Portnov|
|Dory Kamen||girl soprano||Madelaine Matej|
|Fia Kamen||girl soprano||Rose Frazier|
|Chang's first wife||soprano||Mary Finch|
|Chang's second wife||mezzo-soprano||Natasha Ramirez Leland|
|Chang's third wife||mezzo-soprano||Erin Neff|
|Acrobats||Dalian Acrobatic Troupe|
|Suona||Wu Tong, Zuo Jicheng|
|Chinese percussionists||Li Zhonghua, Ma Li, Nie Haijun, Jin Liang|
|Set designer||Walt Spangler|
|Costume designer||Han Feng|
|Lighting designer||Scott Zielinski|
|Video designer||Leigh Haas|
|Sound designer||Mark Grey|
|Aerial choreographer||Ruthy Inchaustegui|
|Approximate running time: 2 hours, 40 minutes including one intermission|
The Bonesetter's Daughter traces a Chinese-American woman's search for her own voice and identity as she grapples with her elderly mother's apparent dementia, her husband's ambivalent commitment, and her teen stepdaughters' hurtful self-absorption. Guided by a ghost of uncertain identity, she travels into the past and lives out portions of her mother's tragic youth, gaining insight, forgiveness, and strength.
The opera is set both in 1997 San Francisco, and in China and Hong Kong around the outbreak of World War II.
Shifting times and locales are linked by a recurring trio of women: American-born Ruth, a professional ghostwriter who scarely speaks up for herself; her mother, LuLing, who appears both as a querulous old woman and as a selfish adolescent; and LuLing's childhood caretaker known as Precious Auntie, who appears both as a ghost and as the fiery young mother she once was.
- Prologue — Dragon Dance – A timeless void
- Act 1, scene 1 – Fountain Court Restaurant, San Francisco, 1997
- Act 1, scene 2 – Immortal Heart, a village outside Beijing, 1930s
- Act 2, scene 1 – Hong Kong Harbor, 1940s
- Act 2, scene 2 – A hospital room, San Francisco, 1997
For further details, see The Bonesetter's Daughter.
The score folds authentic Chinese musical expression into an essentially Western idiom, just as the libretto incorporates Chinese themes—such as the importance of family, and the power of ghosts and lucky charms—within an American framework. That framework includes many popular references, including a wry jab at "Medicare-approved" nursing homes and reference to Ruth's profession as a ghostwriter, which her immigrant mother misconstrues literally to mean a transcriptionist for ghosts. Notably, the infamous O. J. Simpson murder trial of 1995 becomes the vehicle by which elderly LuLing remembers and narrates traumatic events from her adolescence in China, which are revealed as the crux of her conflicts with her daughter.
- "Cast and synopsis". San Francisco Opera. 2008. Retrieved 16 September 2008.
- Kosman, Joshua (15 September 2008). "Opera review: 'Bonesetter's Daughter'". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 16 September 2008. (review )
- Tommasini, Anthony (15 September 2008). "3 Generations of Chinese Women Find Voice in Opera". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 September 2008. (review )
- Stewart Wallace: The Bonesetter's Daughter